Egypt’s Great Sphinx of Giza is the most instantly recognizable statue associated with Egypt, and Cairo is determined that it remain so. So when a full-size replica of the famous monument reappeared in China's northern Hebei province earlier this month, Egypt's response was swift and stern.
The Sphinx has been an issue of diplomatic demarches and complaints to UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations, since a Chinese theme parkin Shijiazhuang put it up in 2014. The Chinese officials said that it had been constructed for a dramatic production and that it would be demolished after the filming was done.
After two years of intensive appeals to both the Chinese government and UNESCO, Cairo managed to get the Chinese authorities to remove the headfrom the giant statue. But another two years later, the controversy has returned. Last month, a Chinese news site reported that workers at the theme park had been seen reattaching the statue's head.
Egypt protested that the Chinese authorities should have requested a permit from the Egyptian government and is now seeking to destroy the statue for once and all.
Elham Salah El-Deen, head of the museums sector at the Ministry of Antiquities, told Al-Monitor that any country wishing to make replicas of Egyptian antiquities has to first obtain permission from Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities.
Duplication without permission is a violation of both Egypt’s Antiquities Protection Law, enacted in 1983, and Intellectual Property Rights Protection Law, enacted in 2002, as well as the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), Abdel Rehim Rehan, a professor of archaeology and a member of the Antiquities Committee at the Supreme Council of Culture, told Al-Monitor.
According to Rehan, international agreements such as TRIPS, a World Trade Organization agreement that both Egypt and China signed, protect intellectual property rights. Egypt has the right to sue any country that duplicates its antiquities without permission.
Under Egyptian law, Egypt’s Supreme Council for Antiquities is the only body entitled to produce modern versions of antiquities and issue permits for other entities or countries to produce replicas in accordance with its requirements.